What I’ve learned after 13 years of running a reading series
I run a reading series called Vermin on the Mount. It’s an irregular, irreverent series that’s been in continuous operation on something like a quarterly basis since the summer of 2004. It started in Los Angeles and now runs in both Los Angeles and San Diego with occasional shows elsewhere.
I don’t spend a lot of time looking back on VOTM. Rather, I look ahead, and when I do it’s 13 years into the future. It’ll be 2030 and I’ll be 61 (oh fuck) and we’ll all be teleporting (double fuck). But the question that concerns me is this: Will Vermin be going strong or will it have disappeared?
A story: Once upon a time I was a contributor to the punk rock zine Flipside. After over 20 years something happened. It’s not my place to speculate about the nature of its dissolution, but the zine abruptly stopped publishing. Calls weren’t answered, explanations weren’t forthcoming, none of which changed the fact that the zine was finished. This vital, hugely important chronicle of the Southern California punk rock scene simply vanished. No more Flipside.
If you’ve been involved in the arts for any period of time you know this is how it goes. Websites go dark. Venues close. Journals stop publishing. It’s all so fragile.
Shortly after Flipside folded, I started writing for another zine. This zine, Razorcake, runs like clockwork. Razorcake has published a new issue every two months for the last 15 years. That’s 98 issues. It’s a well-oiled machine that has over 250 volunteers. If that sounds impressive it’s because it is. I’m proud to be one of those volunteers.
Vermin on the Mount is the opposite of a well-oiled machine. I select the readers, coordinate with the venues, solicit artists to make a poster, update the website, promote the event, set up the mic and the p.a. system, emcee the show and then clean up afterwards. I’ve benefitted from an amazing amount of help over the years but from an operational point of view it’s a grossly inefficient, one-person deal that somewhat successfully reinvents the wheel for each show.
But when I look to the future, I see Flipside not Razorcake.
I’d like to change that. I’ve always wanted Vermin to be more useful to the readers who make time to share their art with a live audience for free. I want to create an experience that’s more tangible and lasting than a few hours in a room together.
The universe has responded, as the universe tends to do, nudging me in this direction. But the reality is that after almost 13 years of filth and fury, I’m not in a position to take advantage of opportunities to move Vermin in the direction where it wants to go.
That’s why I’m writing this. I’m sending out a call for volunteers. I’m asking for help. Not just to help Vermin take the next step, whatever that means, but to make it more a more vital and lasting experience for the indie and emerging artists who make Vermin on the Mount what it is.
Here are some of the things I’m planning or are currently in the works:
· A more robust website
· Enamel pins
· Robot octopus
· Podcasts and video interviews
· Something that falls in the category of an anthology
· Army of super-intelligent drones
· A coffee table book
· Poster art show
If you’re passionate about art, literature and/or media, and want to get involved in Vermin on the Mount, send me a message at jim dot vermin at gmail dot com. I’m not looking for artists, editors and designers per se; I’m looking for people who get DIY culture and want to be involved in making something cool.
Don’t be bitten,
PS Please feel free to share with your comrades in the lit community.